What a difference a week can make. The week began on Sunday in Cedar Park, Texas and crescendoed on Saturday night with some high drama. During that span of seven days the Barons started three different goaltenders, acquired Kevin Montgomery from Lake Erie and traded Shawn Belle, acquired a prospect from Manchester named Colten Teubert, Richard Petiot was recalled to the Oilers, former Blazer coach, Dough Sauter, joined the Barons broadcast crew, Alex Plante was recalled to the Oilers, Petiot and Gerber were sent back down, Johan Motin was demoted to the ECHL, Alexandre Giroux was recalled to the Oilers, and Bryan Helmer signed a new contract. It's safe to call this week on the farm "busy".
Lost amongst this "busyness" were three games that needed tending to. The Barons would try to beat the Texas Stars (Dallas Stars) for only a second time this season, and the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames) would head to Oklahoma City in the second round of 'The Baby Battle of Alberta'.
With a few new faces in the locker room and a few more absent, the Barons needed to win. And winning seemingly appeared more difficult as the team would face two the AHL's most dynamic goaltenders; Texas' Richard Bachman, and Abbotsford's Leland Irving.
With the weight of Western Division playoff spots in the balance, the Barons would need to overcome some obstacles, use them to their advantage and realize it's time to get tenacious.
Oklahoma City Barons 3 vs. Texas Stars 2 (SO)
The trade deadline in the NHL, which now feels like eons ago, was looming on a Sunday afternoon in Cedar Park as the Barons travelled to take on the Texas Stars. In the seven times these teams have played, the Stars have won six. The team in OKC would need to find a way to beat the Stars who are climbing the ranks of the Western Conference as playoffs loom in the shadows.
The Barons would score the first two goals of the game from Phillipe Cornet and Teemu Hartikainen. However, the Stars would roar back to end the 2nd period scoring two of their own. With the score knotted at two all, the third period was a goaltending dual. Bryan Pitton played very well, deflecting eleven shots in the third period, but as did Richard Bachman who saw 10. As regulation ended, neither the Barons nor the Stars would connect on their power play chances, and both PK units were strong. The OT period was short, defensively balanced, and somewhat uneventful.
As the shootout began, Mark Arcobello scored out of the game, and four skaters later Colin McDonald would do the same. Bryan Pitton, letting in only an Aaron Gagnon shootout goal, seemed very poised in net as the Barons skated to victory over the Stars 3-2.
Abbotsford Heat 5 vs. Oklahoma City Barons 3
Jeff Deslauriers would crack the starting lineup again, but would have another dreadful outing as the Heat foiled the Barons hope of a Heat season sweep.
The Heat would score twice on the power play, and the Stefan Meyer and Ryan McMurchy each scored a pair of goals. Despite the struggle to score, and the lack of defensive posturing (primarily in net), the two newest Barons, Kevin Montgomery and Colten Teubert each scored their first goals since coming to OKC.
The other important story for the Barons would be the pulling of Deslauriers after forty minutes of play and four goals on 23 shots. Gerber would hop in, and make the hurting stop, but the damage had already been done.
The team would have to shrug off the disappointing loss, and head back to the drawing board as they'd face this same team the next day.
Abbotsford Heat 1 vs. Oklahoma City Barons 2 (OT)
The low scoring affairs make me nervous. Having witnessed the game prior and the Barons sluggish defense, I awaited the onslaught of goals from the opposing team. Yet it never happened. Instead the baby copper and blue, would have a dramatic come from behind victory that was every bit a moral victory.
With Leland Irving in net for the Heat, and Martin Gerber in net for the Barons, the game was low and slow from start to finish. Halfway through period one, Ryan O`Marra would gift the Heat a two minute power play following a hooking call. Abbotsford's Lance Bouma would score goal number twelve on the year, to put his team up by one. Despite letting in the first period PP goal, Gerber would get some help in front of the net and somehow the Heat only mustered another thirteen or so shots for the remainder of the game. The Barons on the other hand took 34 shots with none being successful. However, shot 35 was the one that went in, and it was scored by none other than the Dustin Penner-deal-sweetner Colten Teubert. Teubert, scoring his second goal in two games, managed to get the only regulation Barons goal behind Irving. In a wild set of circumstances, Teubert ended up on the "hero line" and rocketed a shot that deflected off a Heat defender with less than twenty seconds left in the game. Heroic and lucky to say the least. The Barons and Heat were headed into OT tied at one.
The momentum carried over into OT. After Kevin Montgomery broke up a Heat pass and shuffled it to Brad Moran, Moran took off down the left wing towards the net. He was denied, but the Heat were unable to clear. Teemu Hartikainen snatched the puck, dangled towards the front of the net for a tremendous shot that was denied by Irving. However, Moran was standing near the crease and was able to tap in the game winning goal. The Barons defeated the Heat in overtime 2-1.
Moral Victories? Me Thinks So
If you've read my 'Tending the Farm' pieces throughout the season here at Copper & Blue you'll know that I'm a ebb and flow, emotional victories kind of guy. Stats are great, and they are more telling factors in wins versus loses, however I like the emotion that ties to the game even moreso. The game Saturday night against the Heat was the definition of a moral victory, and it couldn't have come at a more incredible time for the Barons.
It's no surprise that they have a tendency to lose at home. Their home record of 15-14-2-4 compared to their road record of 18-8-0-1 is wacky to say the least. It's improving, but still not the home ice advantage the Barons need to see. A huge victory, like the one witnessed on Saturday night, was a thing of beauty. With Alexandre Giroux gone and two new defenseman in the picture I think most fans were anxious to see how things would roll. Through tweaks here and there, and more to come, the Barons have won a small battle in the grand scheme of things. By winning a close one at home, with the new crew in tow, it was a moral victory in two regards. 1) It won over a lot of fans 2) It proved that the new roster was perfectly fine.
Let's keep this in perspective. It was the Abbotsford Heat. The Heat aren't the greatest rival, but then again everyone wants to make a surge at the end of the season so a win is a win.
For those in attendance on Saturday that saw the skilled/lucky shot of Colten Teubert go in on Leland Irving with time expiring, it was exhilarating. Then to see Moran pick up Hartikainen's rebounded shot and seal the deal further excited the frenzied crowd. It was the first time since Linus Omark's five goal game that I've seen an OKC crowd energized by a win. The team felt it, the coaches commented on it, and the Barons seem to have turned a corner. Great timing for a moral victory.
Dustin Penner for a Draft Pick & a Side of Colten Teubert
Colten Teubert had a great weekend, no one will deny that. In his two games as a Baron he has two goals, including the Saturday thriller. He's big, strong, confident, and pertinent with his puck play. He's a nice asset to have on a team with developing defensemen. However, I'm quick to pass judgement, good or bad, on a guy like this. His WHL numbers are so/so, and his Manchester totals this year are snooze inducing. Through 39 games he only had two goals and eight assists. So I'll tap the breaks on the "amazing" Teubert discussion. Let's remember Bryan Helmer's first couple of games with the Barons. He surged like he was 21 years old again, but then he teetered off into normalcy. Teubert, like other newcomer Kevin Montgomery, will take time to truly asses. I'm hoping for the best, but fearing the mundane.
Doug Sauter Brings His "Humor" and "Grace" to the Airwaves
In news of the Barons weird this week, former Central League OKC Blazers coach, Doug Sauter, began his new job within the organization. He, alongside play-by-play man Jim Byers, will do the verbal tango from the press box for OKC Barons radio broadcasts. Sauter, known more for his awesome mustache and minor-minor-minor league coaching, is not the most radio friendly voice in the business. His call in shows throughout the years were laborious, and un-eventful. So how does he translate to the AHL radio broadcast?
I caught pieces of Friday and Saturday's games on the radio just for the giggles of the whole thing. Byers did his play-by-play thing, and I often forgot about Sauter because he didn't talk in appropriate moments. I found myself fearing the breaks in play as the color commentary began. Like nails on a chalkboard, this one is going to make those FM radio broadcasts sound like 54kpbs online streams.
I fully understand and appreciate the meaning behind this process. The Barons are trying to engage fans of the Oklahoma City game of old, and engage them into a new team. Smart. However, the lack of AHL television coverage and a heavy reliance on radio play-by-play will be hard for most to swallow. I love Doug Sauter and his moustachery, but the radio is not his sweet spot.
A View on Giroux
While watching Giroux's first NHL goal as an Oiler I had a nice long chuckle. Giroux, or "Mr. Cherry Picker" if you'd oblige, scores two different types of goals. He scores a majority of his goals from the right wing faceoff dot. Usually on a one timer, or a quick wrister. Then there's the "cherry pick". When he's not sure what to do, he'll head towards the net. His large frame, and veteran smarts kick in, and he scores off the hard work of others (in this case Linus Omark). You may be singing his praises now Oilers fans, but wait until he costs you a goal or ten with his defensive hiccups (it won't matter, he's headed back to the Barons soon...keep reading).
Clear Day Roster
Happy AHL Clear Day! The date in which the 22-man AHL roster for all 30 teams must be set. Alex Giroux, Linus Omark, and Alex Plante are all expected to be a part of that crew. Philipe Cornet, Anthony Aiello, and Matt Marquardt get the boot, and will not be on the team. Not the Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle roster that I'd hoped for, but it'll do. Any AHL team with Linus Omark on it seems extremely dangerous.
Manitoba Moose vs. Oklahoma City Barons
Oklahoma City Barons vs. San Antonio Rampage
Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Oklahoma City Barons
Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Oklahoma City Barons